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College Hockey: Olimb leaves Willmar for Concordia-Moorhead

WarHawks head coach/GM went 72-56-4 over three seasons

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Willmar WarHawks head coach Kirk Olimb yells out instruction to his team during the first period of a game against North Iowa on Feb. 20, 2021 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

MOORHEAD — After a record season with the Willmar WarHawks, head coach/general manager Kirk Olimb is heading into familiar territory.

On Monday, Olimb was announced as the new head men’s hockey coach at Division III Concordia-Moorhead.

Olimb was plenty familiar with the Cobbers' program. He grew up three-and-a-half hours away in Warroad and played college hockey at MIAC rival Hamline.

“They have a great program and have been a really strong team for a long time,” Olimb said.

Concordia finished 13-10-3 overall and 10-4-2 in the MIAC in 2021-22.

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“They have a lot of players I’m very familiar with,” Olimb added. “It’s a great school; there’s a ton of positives. My knowledge of the players and guys who could go there, from the area or around elsewhere, there’s a lot of talent available.”

As a player with Warroad, Olimb was part of the 2005 Class A state championship team. Then at Hamline, he was part of the 2011 team that won the MIAC regular-season championship, won the program’s first conference tournament championship and reached the NCAA Division III quarterfinals.

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Kirk Olimb

With that level of regional familiarity, Olimb becomes the sixth head coach for the Cobbers since 1967-68.

Olimb replaces Chris Howe, who coached Concordia for 14 seasons. He resigned early in the ‘21-’22 season to pursue other opportunities during the season. Dale Lund served as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

“Kirk’s success as a coach, player and student-athlete were a big part of the committee’s decision,” Concordia Director of Athletics Rachel Bergeson said in a press release. “His familiarity with the MIAC, NCAA Division III and the commitment it takes to excel at a high level made him a perfect fit for the position.”

Olimb went 72-56-4 in three seasons with the WarHawks. In ‘21-’22, Olimb led Willmar to its most successful season in team history, going 32-14-1. He also led the team to two postseason appearances, including the team’s first playoff series victory against Granite City in ‘20-’21.

“We had a very good challenge here in Willmar,” Olimb said. “Things weren’t all that great; the team was coming off a couple tough seasons. It was tough to fill out a roster, let alone putting together a strong team.

“In years two and three, to be able to come around like we did and have the seasons we had, putting in all the effort to know people and know the leagues you recruit from, a lot of that will carry over. … All the recruiting has been a great experience.”

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In a press release on Monday, the WarHawks announced that associate head coach Connor White will serve as interim head coach until a new coach is hired.

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Willmar head coach Kirk Olimb draws up a drill during morning practice from the Willmar Civic Center in October 2019.
Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

“We congratulate Kirk on his much deserved opportunity to be a head coach at the collegiate level,” WarHawks co-owner and president Chris Canavati said in the press release. “We were fortunate to have him in Willmar for three years and sad to see him leave. Kirk is a tireless recruiter and is passionate about developing players to move to the next level, which is evidenced by the number of players that have moved on to the next levels of hockey after playing for him. We wish him much success at his next level of hockey and are confident he will continue to succeed.”

Advancing in his coaching career, Olmb said that Willmar will hold a special place in his heart.

“I want to thank Chris Canavati; he believed in me as a young coach and it really worked out amazingly well,” Olimb said. “I’ll always be indebted to him.

“I wanna thank the fans and the game-day staff and everyone that’s helped along the way. To the players: thank you for your dedication. This wouldn’t be possible without a lot of help from the community.”

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Joe Brown
Joe Brown is a sports reporter for the West Central Tribune. He can be reached via email at: jbrown@wctrib.com or his office number: 320-214-4332.

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